The players were fired up, the crowd was bananas, and at one point the teams scored three goals in under 30 seconds. It may have been the last game of the season for the Riveters, but they made the Pride worry and work for it. The NWHL's 4th place team won their many fans' hearts all over again by clawing their way back from the previous day's 6-0 loss in a hair-raising game that, with a couple more bounces or penalties, might actually have gone either way.
Or could it? We're talking about the Pride, after all. But the Riveters who took the ice last night in Boston looked like a different team than the one that had been dramatically outshot and then shut out on Friday. In the first period they back checked, they forechecked, they cleared their zone quickly and efficiently, and, most importantly, they peppered Brittany Ott with shots right from the get-go -- a great backhand from Janine Weber, a shot from Gabie Figueroa, and another tip from Weber. That was probably when Ott put away her crossword puzzle and realized she had a real game on her hands.
Penalties again made the difference. With Meghan Fardelmann off for elbowing, Gigi Marvin, assisted by Amanda Pelkey, patiently put one past the returned Nana Fujimoto. Hilary Knight followed, 2-0. Then the Riveters got their chance. The first 5 on 3 of the night turned into a goal for Madison Packer off a feed from Brooke Ammerman, and it was a one-goal game ... but not for long.
Fulimoto, who seemed not-quite-recovered from the illness that had kept her from Game 1, got steamrolled at the end of the 1st, leaving one fan to comment disconsolately, "It's not a Riveters game until Nana gets run over." Almost immediately after the trainer left the ice, Jillian Dempsey slipped one through the 5-hole, and the first period ended 3-1 Pride. The Riveters were down, but they had doubled their shot total from the first period the night before.
In a chaotic second period, both boxes basically had revolving doors. Fujimoto, who never looked 100%, was pulled after about three minutes, when Blake Bolden put one over her shoulder, making it 4-1. Jenny Scrivens came in, and very quickly made it hard not to wonder what the game would have looked if she had started. Still, Knight managed to capitalize on a Riveters penalty, making it 5-1. And that's when things got, well, nuts.
With Marvin and Melissa Gedman in the box, the Riveters capitalized on the 5 on 3 yet again, with Kiira Dosdall blasting one from the top of the circle. 5-2. But Boston answered back seconds later: 6-2. Almost immediately, an absolute melee in front of the Pride net ended with the puck behind Ott: 6-3. (The goal was ultimately credited to Lyudmila Belyakova.) All of this happened in literally less than half a minute.
"So what are you in here for?"— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 6, 2016
"I killed someone."
After that, well, it was the Jenny Scrivens Show, as the Riveters "backup" extended the previous night's virtuoso performance, managing to hold off the Pride's assault until the end of the third period. Some of those assaults were literal, like this one, after a great stretch pass from Stretch Johnston.
Then, with about 6 minutes left, the Riveters got a power play, and coach Chad Wiseman asked his players if they wanted to go for it.
In the past, pulling the goalie has not worked for the Riveters any more than yanking the heart out of a human cures their angina. Fans covered their eyes, but the New York women made it work. Celeste Brown picked the perfect time to score her first of the season, and the 6 on 4 made it 6-4, with five minutes left to go. It looked like anything could happen.
If you're reading this, you probably know what happened. I'd say it doesn't matter, but of course it does. What I'd like to think matters more, though, is how the Riveters gave everything they had in every second of this game. I can't think of a single player who didn't have a "Wow!" moment. Everyone brought their A-game, including late return Taylor Holze and practice player Cherie Stewart, and there were moments when the Pride looked as if they didn't know what hit them. (Ahem. It did get chippy, but nobody bled and nobody died, so let's just leave it at that.)
We'll be posting a tribute to the Riveters in the very near future, so I'll just end this by thanking Captain Ashley "Stretch" Johnston and her team for once more showing fans all the grit and drive that made us fall in love with them in the first place. History began, and next season, history will continue. And we'll be here for it.